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Political meddling with jury selection could cause big problems

Expect more cases to have new trials ordered or appeals of convictions to become successful once new changes to the way juries are selected take place in the coming weeks.

The shocking news that the Ontario Court of Appeal ordered a new trial in the Via Rail terror plot case came down to one issue: How the jury was selected.

The Court of Appeal found the trial judge erred in choosing how the jury was selected based on a 2008 change brought in by the Harper government. Now lawyers are saying a change by the Trudeau government will result in more cases ending up in appeals court.


Now it will be up to a judge to make the determination for each juror and many defence lawyers do not like it.

Ottawa lawyer Michael Spratt worries the change will slow the process of jury selection down because judges are required to provide reasons for their decisions and he argues that could end up being the case here. He also questions the wisdom of the judge being involved in selecting the jury.

“The judge is the referee of the trial and having the ref pick one of the teams leaves questions,” Spratt said.

He’s convinced there will be plenty of appeals once the changes take effect and convictions could be overturned.


The Trudeau Liberals promised to do away with peremptory challenges after Gerald Stanley was found not guilty in the death of Colten Boushie. Critics claimed Stanley, a white farmer, was acquitted because of a lack of racial diversity on the jury. Boushie was aboriginal.

Spratt doesn’t like that change either.

“It was an ill-considered decision,” Spratt said. “Some jurisdictions got rid of these after study, we got rid of it one after high-profile case.”

Read Brain Lilly’s full story: Toronto Sun

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